Vigilant volunteers help combat virus

By WANG XIAOYU in Ruili, Yunnan and LI YINGQING in Kunming | China Daily | Updated: 2021-12-01 06:46
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Drivers need to show their nucleic acid test results at highway checkpoints before leaving Ruili, Yunnan province. [Photo by Wu Xiaohui/China Daily]

Workers play crucial role in battle against pandemic on border with Myanmar

On a cool morning last month, Ai Zai, who grows corn and bananas in a village in Yunnan province on the Chinese border with Myanmar, hopped on a tricycle and started a two-hour journey to spray disinfectant in the area.

As a member of a volunteer team formed in Guangnong, Ruili, in July to help contain the spread of COVID-19, he performs a range of tasks, from patrolling and guarding the village gate, to maintaining order at vaccination and nucleic acid testing sites.

Zhang Jing, an official in Jiexiang township, which administers Guangnong, said, "Many villages in Ruili have mobilized local residents such as Ai to help combat the virus."

Guangnong is one of 85 villages on the border in Ruili, a county-level city hemmed in by Myanmar on three sides and sharing a border that stretches for nearly 170 kilometers, with few natural barriers.

"Some stretches of the border are only marked by a ridge or a trench, making it extremely challenging work to prevent COVID-19 cases being imported to China," Zhang said.

Since last year, the city has experienced four rounds of local outbreaks, all of which have been traced to imported infections.

However, no cases of COVID-19 have spread from Ruili to the rest of the country, which according to health officials and experts is "a hard-won" outcome bolstered by joint efforts from local residents and governments.

After bringing the initial wave of the pandemic in Hubei province-the hardest-hit nationwide-under control, China has adopted a strategy of preventing imported cases and a resurgence of domestic outbreaks.

In Ruili, the deployment of barriers along the border, as well as regular patrols, has bolstered the first line of defense against imported infections.

Song Zhizhong, director of the Yunnan Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said, "In terms of halting potential local flare-ups in the city, border villages are the top priority."

As part of measures to safeguard villagers' health and prevent the virus spreading to other regions, the Ruili government has designated areas within 50 to 200 meters of the border as virus control buffer zones.

Han Liangla, who lives in Jiexiang village, moved into its public house in mid-September. Her own home and farmland are located dozens of meters from the border.

The 66-year-old, who lives with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, said it is sad to temporarily leave a familiar environment, but she understands just how important it is to control the virus and to trust decisions taken by the authorities.

"I have received so much help in recent months. Villagers had tidied up our temporary home when we first moved in. Now, they often bring me condiments and vegetables when they pass by.

"The authorities have also issued subsidies and constantly keep track of and address our difficulties," Han added.

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